Environmental and Energy Law

Industrial site on river - environmental law

Houston Harbaugh’s environmental and energy attorneys in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have decades of experience representing industrial concerns, energy companies, municipalities and individuals in matters with respect to state and federal statutes and regulations, local ordinances, and caselaw governing solid waste, hazardous waste, water pollution, clean air, storage tanks, wetlands and real estate development.

We assist clients in obtaining required permits and complying with regulations and auditing principles, advise them on hazardous waste, municipal and residual waste, hazardous substance cleanup and Superfund (CERCLA) matters, and effluent and air emissions issues.

We also represent clients in litigation regarding the regulation of air pollution, water pollution, solid and hazardous wastes, leaking underground storage tanks, coal mining and contaminated sites.

Furthermore, when real estate transactions involve contaminated and recycled industrial sites, we assist clients by utilizing the state’s land recycling statutes and regulations in negotiating the deal.

Enforcement of Environmental Regulations

Our attorneys have significant experience addressing alleged violations issued by agencies such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

We assist clients in each step of the enforcement process, including formulating the initial response to the alleged violations and negotiating with environmental and OSHA regulators. We are well aware that appeals before administrative bodies can pose unique challenges due to their very specialized nature. Our goal is to minimize any potential financial penalty from violations and, if necessary, to help you remedy the violation. To that end, we can also provide advice on how to improve your company’s compliance measures to help you avoid future violations. We aim to help clients resolve these enforcement issues before they become more serious, but we are experienced in handling enforcement issues when they result in litigation.

Real Estate Transactions Involving Contaminated Property:

Buying and Selling Contaminated or Potentially Contaminated Property
Purchasing or selling contaminated properties can be a complex process. Our attorneys have experience in assessing the environmental risks and benefits of these transactions. When our clients consider redeveloping a property, we ensure that the appropriate risk management tools and governmental incentives are used for the best protection and benefit.

Both buyers and sellers of contaminated or potentially contaminated property must conduct appropriate environmental due diligence to determine the extent of or potential extent of contamination at a property. We consider issues such as who will remain responsible for the contaminated property, whether any environmental regulatory defenses may apply, and whether there are any governmental incentives that may be beneficial to invoke. We are experienced in drafting and reviewing purchase and sale documents to ensure that our clients’ interests are appropriately protected.

Permit Transfers
In addition, we are also experienced in assisting in transitions between owners or operators of permitted facilities or sites. We have assisted in transferring permits between current and new owners and can also reevaluate a company’s regulatory compliance during the transfer to ensure that the facility is operating with appropriate permits and authorizations. Our goal is for the transfer of ownership to be conducted as efficiently as possible.

Hazardous Material and Superfund

We counsel clients on the most cost-effective resolution to property contamination issues. Our experience includes resolving exposure due to leaking underground storage tanks, hazardous material migration and water contamination. We have represented clients who are seeking damages as well as clients who are defending against damages. Our clients have included municipal agencies and private companies of varying sizes.

We have also represented clients with responsibilities in large Superfund (CERLCA) sites and can help clients navigate the process and explore their resolution options through negotiations, arbitration, mediation and, if necessary, litigation. Our goal is to resolve our clients’ liability as quickly as possible and with the least amount of financial exposure.

Having the proper insurance coverage to cover cleanup costs as well as financial damages is paramount for organizations that have potential for hazardous material contamination. To this end, we leverage our insurance defense experience to review insurance policies to determine applicability of coverage and in negotiating with insurance companies to provide coverage.

Environmental Permitting and Compliance

Appropriate environmental permitting and compliance measures are essential to the success of our clients. Clients must understand which environmental regulations apply to their activities and facilities and they must be certain that they are in compliance with environmental regulations at all times. It is an ongoing process, as permits must be renewed on a timely basis and, occasionally, they must be modified to reflect changes in operations.

We provide guidance in navigating the environmental permitting process for waste facilities, manufacturing facilities, and land development projects, regardless of size. We can assist clients in determining which parts of their operation require permitting and which regulatory frameworks are implicated. We are prepared to assist in drafting permits applications and advising on permit modifications and appeals. We have also worked with the in-house engineers of our clients to provide guidance and to streamline the permit application process.

In addition, we are experienced in advising on compliance issues, such as meeting discharge standards or responding to environmental audits. With compliance issues, it is best to be “one step ahead” by proactively structuring internal environmental compliance measures. We help clients create compliance measures and safeguards to avoid costly non-compliance penalties down the road.


  • Representing a remediation contractor in a multi-party, multi-faceted litigation arising from a fly ash land slide that impacted a residential neighborhood.
  • Representing a waste and recycled oil recovery transporter in Superfund litigation arising out of the cleanup of a waste oil recovery facility.
  • The representation of a waste disposal company in various regulatory and permitting matters, including litigation arising out of permitting and civil penalty actions.
  • The representation of a major chemical manufacturer concerning several hazardous disposal sites where its waste was disposed by a transporter.
  • The representation of a municipal water company in an action against the owners and operators of several industrial facilities located near the water company’s water supply wells for damages caused by groundwater contamination by industrial solvents.
  • The representation of a generator of listed hazardous wastes in an action brought by the owner of the disposal company which accepted them for delivery to and disposal at the disposal company’s landfill. The action, which was brought under the federal and state Superfund laws as well as Pennsylvania common law, sought several million dollars in the estimated costs involved in closing the landfill in compliance with Pennsylvania hazardous waste disposal area regulations.
  • The representation of a hazardous waste disposal company which transported industrial wastes to a municipal landfill, in an action brought by the United States Environmental Protection Agency seeking to compel generators and transporters of industrial wastes to finance the estimated $50 million closure of the landfill.
  • The representation of a municipal operator of a sewage collection and treatment system in multifaceted litigation arising out of the alleged contamination of farmland from cadmium contained in sewage sludge used as a fertilizer and soil conditioner on the land.
  • The representation of a coal mining company in an appeal of a compliance order directing the treatment or abatement of a large polluting groundwater discharge emanating from the ground approximately 200 yards off the mine site.
  • The representation of a large real estate development company in an action against the state environmental protection agency and a local municipality challenging a construction ban imposed by DER as a result of the municipality’s failure to enact a sewage facilities plan acceptable to DER.
  • The representation of a municipal drinking water authority involving contamination of the public water supply with MTBE.
  • The representation of the operator of a POTW in a civil penalty action initiated by EPA under the Clean Water Act for alleged failure to enforce pre-treatment standards.